Some symptoms of a broken cheekbone are a visible bone, flat cheek, and pain. In cases of severe facial injury, the bone is sometimes visibly broken and seen through the skin. Even if the broken bone is not visible, some people experience a flat or lopsided cheek. Most people with broken cheekbones also experience pain, swelling, and bruising of the face. In addition, sometimes the injury is not limited to the cheekbone, but affects facial features around the cheekbone, like the eyes.
All broken bones fall into two categories: open fractures and closed fractures. The vast majority of broken bones are closed fractures, because the bone is broken but does not poke through the skin. Some fractures are open fractures, in which the bone lacerates the skin or the skin was damaged by the cause of the broken cheekbone. In many cases of open fractures, it is obvious at a glance that the cheekbone is broken. Although all broken bones should be brought to the attention of a doctor, open fractures have a greater chance of becoming infected and are generally considered emergencies.
Another tell-tale sign of a broken cheekbone is a flat cheek, because the bone has moved out of position. When the bone is broken, the cheek is no longer held up properly. Sometimes the cheek appears lopsided or droopy instead of simply flat. A flat cheek is usually not permanent and can be fixed by having a medical professional reposition the broken bone. This involves surgery wherein the surgeon places a plate and screws in the patient’s cheek to secure it.
Not all fractured cheekbones are obvious, however; if the bone is still in place, the cheekbone might look perfectly normal. Pain, swelling, and bruising of the cheekbone may be symptoms of a broken bone. These symptoms are mostly universal, unless a person cannot feel his or her face due to shock or other medical reasons, like damaged nerves. The pain, swelling, and bruising should be evaluated by a doctor as soon as possible.
In some cases, a broken cheekbone affects the position of a person’s eye. If the floor of the eye is damaged, the eye might no longer be held up properly and therefore sinks into the person’s face. This is usually accompanied by blood from the damaged socket. The person’s vision might also be affected by the wound; for example, double vision or blurry vision have been reported.
How Do You Diagnose a Broken Cheekbone?
If you recently suffered trauma to the face, you should examine your injuries carefully to determine their severity. A minor bruise or scar may not require treatment, but a fracture can lead to serious problems, such as permanent damage to your physical health or appearance.
To diagnose a broken cheekbone, compare the known symptoms to your condition. You will want to examine the outward appearance of your injury and take note of the physical sensations you experience when moving your face, keeping it at rest, or touching it with your hand.
Below are some of the symptoms you should look out for when diagnosing a possible cheekbone fracture:
- Flatness of the cheek
- Swollen upper cheek
- Blood in the affected eye
- Altered sensation underneath the eye on the affected side
- Vision problems
- Pain following jaw movement
If you exhibit one or more of these symptoms, contact a local health provider.
When Should You Contact a Physician?
Try to contact a doctor immediately after receiving an injury to the face. A minor trauma might result in small bruises or lacerations. Many facial fractures heal on their own within three to six weeks and do not require significant medical intervention.
However, a serious injury can potentially have significant ramifications on your health. If it’s not possible to receive medical treatment right away, or you believe you only have slight injuries, make sure to review your symptoms before contacting a professional.
Sometimes, the symptoms of a facial fracture do not appear right away, which might also lead you to unintentionally forgo immediate medical treatment. If you experience any trauma to the face, address the condition as quickly as possible by reaching out to a doctor.
How Do Medical Professionals Treat a Broken Cheekbone?
Before determining treatment plans, doctors will look into the exact details of the trauma, such as diagnosing any bone fragments, lacerations, or contortions. If your broken cheekbone requires acute treatment, you will probably receive treatment in two stages.
The first stage puts your cheekbone back in its natural position through a treatment known as reducing. If a reduction is necessary, it may not be possible to undergo this treatment immediately.. Many patients must wait several days for the swelling to reduce before a reduction can be done.
Physicians call the second stage of the treatment fixing. Once your bones are back in place, they need to stay in that position as they heal. A physician may use plates, screws, wires, or other devices to immobilize the bones. This process ensures that everything heals in place and that you do not experience further injuries.
After treatment, it can take around six weeks until you’re fully healed. Expect to experience some bruising, swelling, and discomfort initially as your body goes through the healing process. While facial numbness is a rare side effect of a broken cheekbone, such facial injuries can occasionally cause nerve damage.
Is a Broken Cheekbone a Serious Problem?
Whether a broken cheekbone causes serious problems depends on the nature of your injury, the strength of your bones, your age, and overall health status. Some complex fractures may cause irreversible damage and even prove life-threatening.
In children, broken cheekbones generally heal quickly and rarely pose a serious problem. However, complex fractures or fractures around the eye can be potentially dangerous and should be thoroughly evaluated by a doctor.
The bones in your face shield several important nerves, along with the muscles responsible for your facial expressions and eye movements. Because the cheekbone also helps keep the eye socket in place, a broken cheekbone can cause serious eye damage. In rare cases, blindness can arise from such facial trauma.
What Are the Causes of a Broken Cheekbone?
Cheekbones can fracture for several reasons. Sometimes, a physical attack can lead to facial injuries. Many emergency rooms treat patients with broken cheekbones who have experienced domestic violence, robbery, or other altercations.
Other reasons for a broken cheekbone may be unintentional. Athletes, for example, may also suffer fractures to the face due to accidents, falls, or improper equipment.